In my introductory post “What is ministry?“, I said that I was planning to examining the basic nature of ministry (service). Remember that in the New Testament, the terms “ministry” and “service” are both translations of the same Greek term: διακονία (diakonia).
But, for some reason, New Testament translators often alternate between translating διακονία (diakonia) as either “service” or “ministry.”
Before we begin to look at any possible difference the NT usages, we should first begin with the basic aspects of service. From my perspective, there are three basic aspects of service:
1) Service is provided by an individual or group.
2) Service is received by an individual or group.
3) Service is a need recognized (as a need) by the receiving individual or group.
There are a few issues related to these three basic aspects of service. For example, service is costly (in some way) to the individual or group providing the service. The cost could be in resources, time, energy, etc., but it is some kind of cost.
On the other hand, regardless of the cost involved, if the service does not provide a need that is recognized as a need by those receiving it, then it is not actually a service. The one(s) receiving the service bear the responsibility of recognizing the act as a service. The one(s) providing the service cannot make that determination.
Here’s an example. Suppose someone needs food and water, but does not need clothing or shelter. Someone providing food or water has provided a service. But, someone providing clothing or shelter has not provided a service. Of course, providing a service does not mean that the entire need has been met (which is usually impossible), but it does mean that some actual need has been met.
Remember, the need provided through service may not be something physical such as food, water, clothing, or shelter, although it can be. Service could also include providing emotional support, advice, training, etc. Service could also refer to simply listening to someone else. But, even in those cases, the person(s) receiving the service are actually in need of that service, and they recognize that need.
Now, when we talk about “ministry,” we’re usually talking about a specific kind of service, but it is still a kind of service. (Remember, the same term was used by New Testament authors.) So, while “ministry” may refer to something more than basic service, it cannot refer to something less.
In the next post, I’ll begin to look at some of the differences (or additions, rather) to this basic kind of services for those of us who are in Christ and who are serving people in his name.